Given some of the comments in Anthony Paul Smith's recent post over at an und fur sich I thought it might be a good time to put this up.
As I have discussed in an earlier post I have returned to the theo-philosophical blogosphere. In my time off I have discovered the meaning of life . . . no really. Life is meant to be an act of worship (I'll leave how I understand that dangling for now). I am, God help me, actually trying to have this inform my thought and actions. So I have returned to reading many of my old favourites and in many instances I find great insight and challenge in their posts. In my year off I have seen an und fur sich become quite a little powerhouse blog. The contributors have accomplished high academic achievement and are beginning a promising publishing career. In addition to this they are working primarily in an area of great personal interest to me which is a rigorous engagement with biblical/theological tradition and contemporary (broadly) European philosophy. I linked to Adam K and Anthony P S's forthcoming works and read the brief descriptions on Amazon (I do not know how they personally feel about them).
An excerpt from Adam's description reads,
This is a new theory of the atonement, showing that the Christian account of salvation can only fully make sense if approached from a social-political angle.
Anthony's description reads,
This volume brings together a vanguard of scholars to ask what comes after the postsecular and the postmodern - that is, what is Continental philosophy of religion now? . . . The essays do not propose a new orthodoxy but set the stage for new debates by reclaiming a practice of philosophy of religion that recovers and draws on the insights of a distinctly modern tradition of Continental philosophy, confronts the challenge of rethinking the secular in the light of the postsecular event, and calls for a move from strictly critical to speculative thought in order to experiment with what philosophy can do.
These descriptions as well as the sites general academic engagement raise many questions for me as I return to reading and reflecting on them. I am interested in hearing Adam and Anthony and anyone else at aufs speak about the driving/compelling motivation of their projects (speaking more broadly then just their posts and publications). To me these descriptions and many of the posts imply the themes of production and speed, themes inherent to the academic process generally. We always need to be thinking of what is next and what is new (even if that means 'recovering' what has been neglected or forgotten). This is a pervasive phenomenon, throwing new at the market and seeing what will catch. I cannot actually imagine that there is a 'new' theory of the atonement out there and if there is then I cannot imagine it is true (but I will not stake my reputation on that statement). Actually as I think about it I am not sure the atonement can be theorized at all! And I read Anthony's description as a response to the growing trend of dissatisfaction with movements like RadOx (of course it is larger than that) which continues to strike me as academic bandwagonry (Let's get on board with Derrida then push him off, let's get on board with Milbank then push him off, let's get on board with Zizek and then . . . ). I know it is all more subtle and sophisticated than this but it is hard to deny this in academic 'progress' . . . until the renaissance of Derrida or Neo-postmodernism . . . oh the things we have forgotten and misunderstood!).
I am also quite sure that the hope of the folk at aufs is not simply to feed the academic machine (though I know that is part of professional development and advancement) and so I want invite you to speak about both your motivation and their hopes, to what end is your overall striving aimed and why do you think this form will facilitate that. Or do you have any aspirations that are not professionally driven. And I would ask you do this in a spirit of openness in a way that does not reflect the expectations of the academic/intellectual life. I am not asking you to defend anything (my above statements where not meant to be criticisms just reminders of a larger issue that spurred this post). I am not concerned that you sound rigorous and robust and all those other intellectually driven adjectives. I just want to hear from you because as far as I know I respect and even admire you and what they seem to be trying to do (and of course more than a little jealous of where you are and where I am not). But the problem is that I am not sure just what you are trying to do because I see it is all so shrouded in the mist of academic/intellectual protocol.
I know that in a sense this is a very narrow minded invitation and naive and perhaps it does not deserve a response. But I simply cannot shake the nagging question of why. Is there a hope for a better humanity in all this? Is there a belief in the pursuit of truth? Is there an attempt to honour God? Is this simply a personal preference, disposition or pleasure? Is this the result of chain of circumstance? A neurotic or compulsive conclusion to family and environmental upbringing? Is this the adventurers thrill of exploring the unknown? Addiction to thought? I am not kidding here I really would like to know. As I near as I can figure out at this time I pursued these things initially out of a response to God as I knew God manifested in the forms that seemed to come most naturally to me and in time there was increase of personal drive for achievement and status as well as a continued pleasure/obsession in the process (I have yet to uncover the family baggage that has played into all this other than this sort of pursuit affords me the opportunity to be less social).
You (and heck, anyone else reading this) are welcome to respond here or at your own site.You are of course welcome to ignore this . . . no offence. But I do find these communities helpful and at times even inspiring and so I ask you not pass over this invitation too lightly.
So to recap. I am drawn (uneasily) to aufs in the same manner that I am drawn (uneasily at times) to their interests. In the interest of understanding myself (I cannot always understand why I give it such value but I cannot help from partaking either) and your project(s) I would like hear about how you came to the place they find themselves, why the persist in it, and where they hope it leads (other than having the future fuck you! . . . although they can unpack that for me too if they want).
After sitting with this post for a little while (as well as receiving courage and clarity from Mark Manolopoulos at Church and PoMo) I would have to say that I still pursue many of the same interests for pleasure, an adventurers pleasure that endures obstacles and hardships (and impenetrable texts) in the nagging belief that there may be something beautiful on the other side. And in honesty I still pursue these interests because I believe in some manner I can a better grasp or gain advantage in (for better or worse) the world around me.